After joining the Southern Conference in 2014, ETSU’s rivalry with UTC picked up right where it left off.
Despite the intensity every time both teams hit the court, the Chattanooga Mocs had the upper advantage coming into the game Saturday night.
Last season the Mocs defeated the Bucs all three times they met. Saturday night, with a 76-71 win over Chattanooga, ETSU made a statement by defeating the Mocs for the first time since March 18, 2014.
In a highly physical game, the game went back and forth from start to finish.
In the start of the first half, despite ETSU’s fight, UTC kept control of their lead until Desonta Bradford (Humboldt, Tenn.) sparked a run for the Bucs.
Bradford scored a big 3-pointer paired with a turnaround jumper near the rim to tie the game at 15 with ten minutes remaining. Following Bradford’s five points were 3-pointers from A.J. Merriweather (Jackson, Tenn.) and two from T.J. Cromer. After a 12-5 run, the Bucs were now ahead 27-20.
UTC would not be quiet for long. They began a run of their own and scored seven points unanswered to tie the game at 27 with a little more than three minutes remaining. Both teams took turns scoring, and the first half ended 34-34.
In the start of the second half, neither team could pull ahead by many points. It wasn’t until 11:27 remaining in the second half when Hanner Mosquera-Perea (Istmina, Columbia) scored two back to back alley-oop dunks to give the Bucs a 52-47 lead with 10:39 remaining.
“The coaches read their defense really well,” Mosquera-Perea said. “We knew it was going to be open so we drew up some plays, ran them and it was there.”
A pair of free-throws from UTC’s Justin Tuoyo, a jumper from Greg Pryor and a massive dunk by Casey Jones brought UTC within one point and had their bench full of excitement with 8:07 remaining.
After a tie game with about five minutes remaining in the match another big time 3-pointer from Bradford gave the Bucs a 60-57 lead, and they controlled their lead until the end of regulation.
Bradford ended the game with the team high, 19 points. He also added five rebounds, four assists and 90 percent from the free-throw line.
The Bucs shared the ball well, finishing with four players scoring double digits: Merriweather finished with 13 points and four rebounds, Mosquera-Perea finished with 18 points, nine rebounds and four blocks, and Tevin Glass (Norcross, Ga.) finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Saturday’s game was Glass’ first career double-double.
“I tried to come out this game,” Glass said. “It was a big win for us, and we’re trying to get first place in the conference this year so I just tried to step up.”
Pryor finished with the most points Saturday night, 21. His teammates Justin Tuoyo and Johnathon Burroighs-Cook also finished high in scoring with 15 and 10, respectively.
After Saturday’s win, the Bucs improve to 17-5 overall and 7-2 in conference play. The Bucs are now tied with Furman for first in the Southern Conference standings. After losing, the Mocs dropped to fourth with an overall record of 15-6 and 6-3 in the conference.
“It gives us a lot of confidence,” said Head Coach Steve Forbes. “It gives us a chance to continue to control our own destiny. But we didn’t win the league today and they didn’t lose the league today. I told our players this, and I’ll tell our fans this, ‘We get 30 hours to enjoy this and that’s it.’ So at midnight on Sunday we all have to start thinking about VMI.”